Things to do in Bangalore — In this series I will be covering the various places you can go to, in and around Bangalore, but mainly exploring Bangalore city. The old and the new parts, the culture and food scene, shopping and more! I hope you enjoy the first post in this series…
A staycation and an idea
In August, we spent 2 days at Taj Westend. This leafier end of Bangalore, surrounded by grand old buildings, wide roads and a lot of history, is a far cry from the part of the city we live in, and therefore a refreshing change.
The second oldest tree in Bangalore had its generous canopy all around the hotel wing we were put up in. The gleaming checkered corridors, the windows overlooking foliage in every shade of green and the general old world charm is something that I’ve always loved about this hotel and the three of us had a lovely weekend here.
Instead of eating in all our meals in the hotel, we decided to step out to explore the local restaurant scenes in this side of the city. We do not get to do this regularly because of the distances and evening traffic that turn into a very effective wet blanket over all the best laid plans.
And just like that, we had an idea.
It’s been over 6 years since we made Bangalore our home, but we have not yet explored the city like we should have. While we end up traveling to new places at least twice a year, our son doesn’t know much about the city we live in, other than the places his school takes him to. We made a pact to explore different parts of Bangalore, at least a couple of times a month. It would not just be food, but also streets, culture, temples and anything that makes Bangalore what it is.
We kicked off our family project last month with Church Street. This is a small but action packed street, running parallel to MG road and with Brigade Rd and St Marks Road running on either side of it. Chock a block with restaurants, there’s Social, Mainland China, Oh Calcutta, Empire, Brik Oven (for pizzas), Bheema’s, Coconut Grove – just to name a few.
We drove down to MG Road and found free public parking a couple of yards before the left turn to hit Church street. Being a Sunday morning, both the traffic and parking was easy. Church Street, a 5 minute walk from our parking, looked like an excavation site. Given that it had been raining all month, the place was an utter mess. It was a disappointing sight and I was wondering if our trip was in vain. As we took the left turn and continued walking, we saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The road was being properly concreted and by the time I write this post, there is an update that the entire street is being cobblestoned. Post the stone work, it is going to be a delight to walk down the street and explore all that it has to offer.
Queen’s Restaurant – 43 years and counting
Our first port of call on Church Street was to be Queen’s, one of the oldest Punjabi restaurants in Bangalore. I had first heard of this when I interviewed Kate Bracks (Masterchef Australia winner) when she visited Bangalore in 2013. Ironic, yes?
I would keep thinking about eating here and it never happened. We went looking for Queen’s and the husband was wondering if they had shut down, unable to cope with the perpetually dug open roads and a consequent drop in customer traffic. When I saw the signage that read ‘Queen’s’ I almost whooped out in joy.
The husband remarked that this small family run restaurant seemed not to have changed in the last decade or so. He used to be a regular customer for lunch in the early days of his career as his workplace was in the next building.
We immediately got down to ordering. I ordered the Masala Puri, because I remembered Kate raving about it. Let’s just say it was the best masala puri I’ve tasted. Cooked and seasoned chickpea curry over flat papdi/puris, topped with chutneys and sev, the flavours were lip smacking and the crunchiness spot on.
We ordered a couple of vegetarian curries with the rotis, and the husband ordered the fish fry to relive his earlier days in Bangalore. Both the kid and him were very happy with the dish (and the fish).
Seeing a lady pop in and out of the kitchen, I assumed she was the owner of the place. Two men, whom I later understood to be her husband and son, were also around on this Sunday morning, managing the customers and the billing. She took a break from the cooking, sitting down on the table next to us.
I walked up to her to tell how much we loved the food. I was curious about the origin of the restaurant and she was kind enough to share the story. Mrs. Suneelam Chodha came from Calcutta to Bangalore in the early 70s when she got married. There wasn’t a single Punjabi restaurant of note in the city. Egged on by friends and family, she finally decided to start her own restaurant in 1974, despite no experience in commercial cooking. Her husband, who had a degree in hospitality management encouraged her whole heartedly in this venture. Few years down, the restaurant started doing so well that Mr. Chodha quit his full time job to assist in managing the restaurant.
It was delight to eat here and meet the people behind one of the oldest family run restaurants in the city.
Must eat: Masala Puri, Paneer Jalfrezi, Fish Fry
Check out some of the Easy and popular Punjabi recipes
Indian Coffee House – Special meals Rs.50 | Mini meals Rs.30
Right across Queen’s Restaurant is Indian Coffee House (ICH). Painted in candy pink and bright blue, this branch of ICH on Church Street opened only in 2009 after their iconic branch on MG Road was shut down after over 50 years of existence. Few of the popular items from their compact menu are masala dosa, eggs prepared in a few ways, sandwiches and mutton cutlets. It was around 2 pm when we stopped by ICH and a sneak peak into the kitchen revealed a stack of freshly fried vadas.
I’ll be honest, I don’t care much for their coffee, but I do care for the strong whiff of nostalgia in places like these. The whacky posters, the turbaned waiters in their white uniforms and the formica topped tables remind us of the restaurant scenes from the times gone by.
Seated at a table by the window, an old gentleman went about eating his spartan lunch of bread and eggs, reminding me of the coffee house scenes from the book ‘Ghachar Ghochar’. We did order 3 cups of coffee and left a generous tip for the old waiter.
Blossom’s Book House – The Mecca for biblophiles
Blossoms, a 200 sq ft bookshop for second hand books was started in 2001 by an engineer Mayi Gowda. It now extends over 3 storeys and 3500 sq ft. Apart from a very narrow path for book seekers to walk on, there’s not an inch of space that’s not stuffed with books. The store is said to have over 2,00,000 books spread across every conceivable genre.
All three of us went a bit crazy in our respective sections. The husband was elated to see piles of books in the graphic novel section, while my kid filled up a whole basket with his current obsessions – Wimpy Kid and Middle School. We ended up playing quite a bit of hide and seek as it is a bit of a maze and that too over three floors. I did feel a bit silly calling out my son’s name aloud in the store because that’s the only way I could find him amidst piles of books 🙂
A quick tour like this does no justice to an epic (and I don’t use this term lightly) place like this. I need to come back here all by myself and spend a few hours in these book lined aisles.
I hope you enjoyed this mini tour of Church Street in my Things to do in Bangalore series. This street has a lot more to offer with respect to food and drink, so ditch your vehicle and walk around to discover all of it.
If you liked this post, you will also love reading this: Tiffin trail in Bangalore
There’s lots more to come in this Things to Do in Bangalore series, so subscribe to my blog posts by signing up in the box on your right.
Do leave your comments on your favourite hangouts in Bangalore (old and new), experiences that you would recommend to your out-of-town friends and more! I look forward to hearing from you.